Top international diplomats on Friday pushed for a final Middle East peace settlement that would create an independent Palestinian state within 24 months. The international Quartet of Middle East peace mediators also called on Israel to freeze all settlement activity following an Israeli announcement it planned to build new Jewish housing in East Jerusalem.
The Quartet met in the Russian capital and issued a formal statement read by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
"The Quartet believes these negotiations should lead to a settlement, negotiated between the two parties within 24 months, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors," he said.
Mr. Ban met other senior Quartet officials, from the United States, the European Union and Russia.
While the Quartet has no enforcement power, it called on the international community to contribute immediate, concrete, and sustained support to the Palestinian authority.
The statement also condemned Israel's recent announcement that it planned to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem. The Quartet has consistently called for Israel to restrain settlement activity.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton again urged both sides to show restraint.
"The goal of the Quartet, like the goal of the United States government, is to get the proximity talks re-launched. We do not think unilateral actions by either party are helpful," Clinton said.
Secretary Clinton also said the U.S. envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, will visit the region following Friday's Quartet meeting. He will meet separately with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Following Friday's talks, the quartet also condemned Thursday's rocket attack from Gaza that killed a Thai farmer in Israel and reiterated a call for the immediate release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was seized by Gaza militants in 2006.
Political analyst Alexey Malashenko at the Moscow Carnegie Center told VOA the Quartet meeting can be summed up as a call to avoid extremist provocations.
Malashenko says the way out of the [Middle East conflict] is slow and painful and requires awareness that a solution will probably take decades. In the meantime, he adds, the effort entails conflict management, which is probably the most important thing today. In that respect, the analyst says the Quartet is doing a good thing.
The group also underscored the need for a solution to the continuing deterioration in Gaza that addresses Israel's legitimate security concerns. On Jerusalem, the Quartet recognized the city's importance not only for Israelis and Palestinians, but also for Jews, Muslims, Christians. Its status, according to the Quartet, can be secured through good faith negotiations for people around the world.